My wife, Jan Schakowsky, and I are friends with a wonderful woman named Bea. Bea is now 95 years old. Bea was born in 1917.
She was born in a country where women couldn’t vote. In some areas of the country, just fifty years before, slavery had been legal. Collective bargaining was not recognized under the law. Poverty was rampant — especially among the country’s oldest citizens.
Bea was born in a country where there was an unimaginable gulf between a few fabulously wealthy oligarchs, and the masses of ordinary people. It was a country where only a tiny fraction of the population ever went to college — or even graduated from high school — a country were hardly anyone was considered “middle class.” It was a country where there were few regulations to protect health and safety on the job, no national child labor laws, no federal minimum wage, and very little to prevent corporations from recklessly destroying the environment.
Bea was born in a country where people of color were considered second-class citizens and discrimination against them was enshrined into law — a country where gays and homosexuals could be prosecuted for their sexual orientation.
Bea was born in the United States of America.
Over her lifetime, Bea has been involved in many of the great social movements of our time — movements that helped transform our country into the envy of the world.
She was active building the labor unions that build the middle class. won a living wage, weekends and a 40-hour work week, pensions for retirement, and the passage of Social Security and Medicare that ensured a retirement free of poverty.
She marched with the civil rights movement that gave people of color an equal status in American society.
Bea became a public school teacher and helped educate an ever-expanding number of ordinary Americans — watching more and more of them go on to college to fulfill their dreams.
She was part of the women’s movement that demanded equal status and equal pay for women — as well as the right for women to control their own decisions about contraception and abortion.
This year, Bea — at 95 years old — is working on a phone bank to turn out voters for Barack Obama. She says that if Mitt Romney and the Republican Right win the election on Tuesday, they have made clear that they absolutely intend to destroy all of the things for which she has struggled her entire life. She’s right.
Mitt Romney has demonstrated over the years that he has only one real core value: his own success.
Throughout his career, Mitt has demonstrated that he will do whatever is necessary to benefit himself — and his investors. At Bain Capital he didn’t flinch when it came to destroying other people’s jobs and lives if it would make him and his investors money.
Now his “investors” are the oligarchs of the Republican Right — people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson — who, between them, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get him elected. Many are the same people who funded the Tea Party movement. Others are the Wall Street hedge fund barons whose recklessness collapsed the economy and came very close to recreating a Great Depression.
These people — and their Tea Party allies in Congress — have shown the country that they have no intention of compromise. They are intent upon rolling back all of the things Bea has fought for — on sending us back to the Gilded Age. They truly believe that America would be a better place without labor unions. They want to eliminate Medicare and replace it with vouchers of ever-shrinking value that pay private insurance companies. (more…)